Walmart worker dies for lack of rain check policy.

Appalling:
A worker at a Wal-Mart in New York City’s Long Island suburbs was killed when a throng of shoppers broke down the doors to the store early this morning and knocked him to the ground. The event involved a temporary employee and was “a tragic situation,” Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, said in a statement. “The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority.”
Before I left town for the holidays I was going to do a snarky post about how the vast majority of shoppers who show up at 5AM are suckered by the fact that all those price specials are always "while supplies last" and Walmart has virtually no supplies in the store. Of course, that kind of stampede only demonstrates that all those "savvy" shoppers on Long island already knew this. That was the reason for the crush. This doesn't excuse their horrible behavior, but Walmart could have prevented this tragedy from happening by having a rain check policy and didn't. Instead we get the same message we always get whether it's poisoned dog food or anything else that Walmart does wrong. I'm also interested in this:
The man was working for a temporary agency on the company’s behalf, Wal-Mart said in the statement.
I've heard of temporary security guards at Walmart, but never temporary employees. Cancel that. Nearly every employee at Walmart is a temporary employee. I mean employees who work for temporary agencies. What's with that, anyways? Update: The NYC UFCW local responds:
Director of Special Projects for Local 1500 Patrick Purcell called Wal-mart's comments in response to the incident both "cold and heartless." "If the safety of their customers and workers was a top priority, then this never would have happened," Purcell stated. "Wal-mart must step up to the plate and ensure that all those injured, as well as the family of the deceased, be financially compensated for their injuries and their losses. Their words are weak. The community demands action," Purcell concluded.

17 Responses to “Walmart worker dies for lack of rain check policy.”

  1. First, in some cases, Wal-Mart will contract temp employees from outside agencies. They also hire temporary employees for the holidays and other times.

    Second, what stores raincheck their Black Friday deals? I can’t think of one. That would defeat the purpose.

    Third, attempting to foist blame on Wal-Mart for the mob mentality of the customers at one of its more than 4,000 locations in asinine. I was at several stores today and, while I would call the environment unpleasant, I thought the crowd control measures were adequate. This is unfortunate and says a lot more about the people waiting outside the store than it does about the company trying to make their holidays a little bit brighter.

  2. UncleBob says:

    Actually, I do have to somewhat disagree with you on this one Someone.

    Yes, it says a lot about the “mob mentality” of those outside the store, but it also says a lot about the individuals in charge at that store and how poorly planned their Black Friday plans were. This isn’t really something to blame on the company as a whole, but something to blame on this one store and their management team.

    And, to disagree with Jonathan – our store had a ton of stuff on hand (that $97 GPS System? We had over 100 – and we’re a tiny little store in a tiny little town!) The problem is that, for the entire company, Walmart simply cannot get quantities of items to serve everyone. The only other alternative would be to take an “all or nothing” approach, which, in the end, would mean less opportunities for the customers to buy stuff they don’t need. ;)

    What I would *love* to see is something were different stores in different (large) areas have different ads. Sure, each store couldn’t get 200 $97 Garmin GPS Systems, but I’m guessing half the stores could have gotten 200 and the other half could have gotten 200, say, $97 TomTom systems. It’d be a lot more work and a little harder for Home Office to coordinate, but it’d allow for more quantities to be shipped to the stores.

    As per the raincheck thing, Walmart does have a raincheck policy. It clearly excludes “One time offers” and “Limited Supply” items. ;)

  3. I don’t know enough to comment on how the store’s management team handled things. My assumption would be not well since the customers beat the door down, but I simply cannot say.

    The stores here were serving coffee and donuts to customers waiting in line. The security seemed good (both contracted outside officers and normal AP as well as an engaged management and sales floor team). I was impressed. Of course, all of these stores were also open 24 hours, which the one in the story was apparently not. People didn’t need to beat down the doors.

    Bob,

    How did your store do today? How long did it take to move the specials. Of all the stores I went to today, it looked like our stores moved the most of their advertised merchandise. Best Buy, especially, still had a lot of stuff around when I was there.

    Oh, and thanks for the idea on how to handle Black Friday. I may pass that on up.

  4. Jonathan Rees says:

    Thanks for the correction Bob, as it still proves my point. If Walmart can’t sell its specials to everyone who walks in the door they have no business selling them at all. If the idea is to sell more stuff at low prices then they could rain check Black Friday specials. If the whole idea is to have everyone out at 5AM frothing at the mouth, then this works perfectly. I call that asinine, because it invites lawsuits and the family of this guy is going to sue so fast it will make Bentonville’s head swim.

    It’s an accident waiting to happen on Black Friday at every Walmart all across America, Someone. The first death just happened to have occurred on Long Island.

  5. I’m sure they will, and I assume Wal-Mart will settle, though you never know.

    Jonathan, you are essentially suggesting doing away with Black Friday all together. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not, but is it practical? This would need to be an industry-wide move, not a Wal-Mart move.

  6. Police Seeking Wal-Mart Shoppers Who Trampled Employee

    Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers stepped over him and became irate when officials said the store was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

    At least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries. The store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.

    I’m with JR on this. The idea of creating a mob psychology so that shoppers will be swept up in the excitement of getting a “bargain” and the store will get extra publicity has gotten out of hand.

    Stores are now opening earlier, or even on Thanksgiving in an effort to get a jump on the competition. But these aren’t really the shoppers they need to attract. Those who are willing to queue up for an extended period of time to save some money are most likely to be those with the smallest amount available to spend.

    Is there any evidence that bargain shoppers buy stuff that they wouldn’t have bought otherwise? Perhaps they just swoop in for the coveted item and leave.

    Localities could help prevent this sort of problem in the future if they created local regulations as to how crowd control was to be managed. This is not a big leap, there are already plenty of such rules about fire regulations and the like. Stores like Walmart will squawk if they are required to have extra staff or set up barriers to control the queues or to limit the number of people entering a store at a time, but so what, they squawk about everything.

  7. Robert,

    I noticed some interesting things while I was out yesterday.

    1. At Wal-Mart almost all of the advertised bargains on big-ticket items were gone within moments of 5 am.

    2. By the end of the day, the high-end items and the really cheap items were gone from Wal-Mart’s shelves, while the stuff between was plentiful.
    An example at the three stores I went to was DVD players/Blu Ray players. No Blu Ray players left, not even the expensive ones and none of the cheap DVD players ($25 or so) were left. TV’s were much the same.

    3. WM had no video game systems left and they were sold out of the high demand games, despite the fact that they did not take a strong price leadership position on most of these.

    4. Other stores did not seem to go through very much. Best Buy still had a lot of its advertised bargains in piles in the floor. The best stuff was gone, but there were still plenty of good things to be taken. Target still had a great selection of electronics available as well. Notable was that most of the games in their ads were gone (they had some nice deals). K-Mart just made me sad.

    Thoughts?

  8. “At Wal-Mart almost all of the advertised bargains on big-ticket items were gone within moments of 5 am.”

    That’s exactly what I’m talking about. You might as well tease a rattlesnake with a stick.

    And by the way, we got Everett some nice pjs with polar bears on them at Gymboree after lunch on the way home from Boulder. They were 25% off, as was everything else in the store all day.

  9. The question is whether these things would have sold out without the teaser bargains.

    Lots of stores do big business on black Friday even without the loss leaders, that’s why it got named “black”.

    So the question remains whether the door buster (literally!) bargains are really affecting the rest of the sales. I have no idea, but firms do lots of things because they think they work, not because they actually have evidence. This is true of much advertising in general.

  10. Actually, I did all my shopping late and was pleased with what I got. I had other reasons for being there at 5am. I’ve learned a lot this weekend. Looking forward to seeing the sales figures.

    I was more interested in thoughts on #2.

  11. Commerce continues:

    After Black Friday death, shoppers back at Wal-Mart

    Other than glaziers out front fixing the doors broken off their hinges by a throng of impatient shoppers, there were no outward signs Saturday at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart of the chaos that turned this year’s Black Friday into a day of death and mayhem.

    Shoppers at the store, located near the Green Acres Mall, wheeled carts stuffed with big holiday gifts beginning shortly after the store opened at 7 a.m.

    The reasons behind the need to buy “stuff” for Christmas, even stuff that no one wants (or needs) or that they can’t afford, has been studied ever since Coke “invented” Santa in 1930:

    Coke Lore

    It the only way you can show your feelings towards your friends and family is with “stuff” then you need to examine your behavior for the other 364 days of the year. I set up a rule for me over a decade ago that any gifts had to be either home made or edible (or both).

  12. More shopping data:

    Keeping an eye on the malls

    “Shoppers definitely have a mission this year,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for NPD Group. “They are serious about finding the best deals. They are very budget conscious, they’ve done their research and then they’ll go home.”

    Cohen projects a 3% drop, his first-ever decline forecast, in total holiday sales. Another analyst, America’s Research Group chairman Britt Beemer, estimates sales for November and December combined will slip 1%.

    “[Shoppers] know exactly what they want, where to shop for it and who has the best deals,” said Beemer, who doesn’t expect people will deviate from their shopping lists.

  13. In response to the update, I can only say I will be thrilled when the UFCW is gone.

  14. [...] writing extensively about the death of Walmart temporary employee Jdimytai Damour over at The Writing On The Wal, but this story has import far beyond the purveyor of cheap plastic crap from China. [...]

  15. UncleBob says:

    I’m not at all surprised that Robert’s answer is more government. ;)

    Let’s put all of the government’s corpses on one side of the scale and all of Walmart’s corpses on the other side of the scale and see which one tips the scales.

    “If Walmart can’t sell its specials to everyone who walks in the door they have no business selling them at all.”
    Does this same line of thought apply to, say, someone having a garage sale?

  16. Omri says:

    When I worked at Kmart, I was warned that as a stockboy, I was making minimum wage, not hazard pay, and therefore I was never to put myself in any danger. That meant no chasing after shoplifters. And they did say, in the training, that in case of a riot, we were to call the police and get out. That kind of work was for the security staff, who were trained and paid for it.

    Also, ever notice that Kmart doesn’t do Black Friday ? The policy was, and as far as I know, still is, that no sale event should ever deplete the inventory, except for the Blue Light Specials. And there is a reason those are not advertised.

    Walmart isn’t just using its market sway to push employers towards lower pay and benefits, but is actively pushing for a more dangerous working environment. This is sick.

  17. UncleBob says:

    Kmart doesn’t do Black Friday?

    That’s news to me… and Kmart, apparently.

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